Sometimes divorce is necessary. Just like mowing the lawn, washing the dishes, changing a dirty diaper…. You get the picture. But we do these things because, in the long run, they’re good for us.
You know that with a seriously problematic marriage, divorce is the best option.
For the parents.
But what do we do about our kids? How do we help them? If divorce is good in the long run, what about the present? So many people have no idea what do to about their kids during a divorce. Frequently, they feel bad that divorce has to happen, but what can they do? Plain old adaptation to divorce in children is such a common belief that it’s hard to imagine that there is anything that can be done to help our kids. According to many people like Jenn-Yun Tein, an author for the American Psychological Association, we only need to worry about helping our kids if they’re "at-risk" – if we abuse them, if we don’t care about them, etc. But if we treated our kids that way, when would the thought to try to help reduce the negative impacts of divorce on our children cross our minds?
It probably wouldn’t.
Although adaptation is inevitable and obvious (because usually divorce is permanent, so we don’t have much choice but to adapt), we can help our kids do it well.
That’s right! We can help!
And it’s based on just three things.
1. Environment prior to divorce.
We want our children do some of the things we do, like making our beds or sharing, right? Then why aren’t we more conscious of how we behave the rest of our time around them? Even if our kids don’t make their beds, they’re still paying attention to how we live our lives. They notice every kind word, hug, and laugh, but they also notice every insult, sigh, and shout. We are the ones that affect who our children are, so we need to be more careful.
When our stress, frustration, anger, or impatience frequently shows, our kids see that and pick up on it. They adopt those feelings and behaviors as their own because that’s all they’re being taught.
Besides those things, when our children experience conflict between us and our spouse, the likeliness of adjustment issues after divorce increases. All types of conflicts affects how our children view us, and strongly affects the way they behave or think of us after a divorce.
How we can prevent our kiddos from being impacted by these things?
Just love them. And pay attention.
2. During the divorce.
The events leading up to a divorce can be awful. The events during a divorce are even worse. More strain and tension is created because divorce is such a huge change. The separation is hard, there are changes in our workload, and trying to balance family matters without your spouse is difficult. But that does not mean we have any excuse to stop behaving well in front of our children.
During the divorce is another critical time when children absorb every last drop of feelings and actions that we let them see. When we’re upbeat, they’re more likely to be happy. When we’re upset, it’s so possible for them to feel down in the dumps.
Divorce can result in loneliness, depression, relationship and trust issues, strain between parents and their children, academic failure, reduced self-esteem….. But the more we care for our children and the more we remind them that they’re important and loved, the less likely it is for these things to happen.
If we constantly pay attention to how we react and act around our kids, it’ll 1) become second nature, 2) help us become more loving, and 3) demonstrate important, uplifting thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to our children.
3. Minimize the impact of divorce.
Okay, okay, you already knew that divorce wouldn’t be any fun. And now you’re aware that we can try to prevent all of those negative impacts of divorce on our children. So what do we do?
We provide emotional support. Enough to fill up all of your children, plus five more kids. This needs to be provided before the divorce, during it, and afterwards. Doing so helps the children become constantly aware of our love, affection, and attention. It also helps ensure to our kids that we are taking their thoughts and feelings into consideration instead of disregarding them.
So, the spouse (or ex-spouse). We divorced them for a reason. Except we still need to treat them respectfully and appropriately, especially in front of the kids. If we express our negative feelings about our (ex)spouse and the kids hear them, they may adopt those feelings, too! We don’t want them hating their other parent – or us.
So be nice, gentle, comforting, conscious, affectionate, and attentive of what your favorite kids are observing.
You can help.
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